You would think that for somebody who has been in the industry as long as John Goodman, seeing yourself up on the big screen had become something of a normality, something you get used to and become comfortable with. But when speaking to Goodman about his latest picture The Gambler, he admitted that even at this stage in his career, it’s something not something he enjoys.
The main scene in question was the one where his character Frank sits in nothing but a towel, delivering a memorable monologue where “f**k” is the most prominent word. We discussed this scene during our phone interview, what it was about this character he loved, collaborating with Mark Wahlberg – and which directors are out there that he’d love to work with one day.
No I didn’t know anything about it, and by the time they get to me, it was Rupert. Then I had a meeting with him which was very positive, and I was mostly attracted to the dialogue.
There’s one scene in particular, when you’re wearing nothing but a towel, bald, saying “fuck you” over and over.
That was very unpleasant to watch.
Must have been a great scene to shoot though? Were there many takes?
Yeah there were a lot of takes [laughs]. I was very, very self-conscious that day. I felt not unlike a butter sculpture.
You’ve been in the industry a long time now, but when watching yourself on screen has it become normal? Are you comfortable seeing yourself, or is still like it was when you first started?
Yeah, but you know what, there are times when I’m very self-conscious, and that scene was very unpleasant to watch, because I’m sure it was uncomfortable doing it, but I tried to forget about all that. It wasn’t pleasant. But it usually depends on the dialogue in regards to my comfort level of watching it. I’ll be honest with you though, I’m not crazy about watching myself on screen.
Even when I have to transcribe an interview I’ve done, hearing my own voice…
[laughs] Yeah I remember the first time I heard my voice on a tape recorder. a) that couldn’t be me, and b) how could I sound that horrible?
The Gambler is effectively a remake, had you seen the original and do you like having that reference to help you out, or can it be a little distracting?
I saw the original but it was so long ago that I really don’t remember much of it, outside of the fact that I remember enjoying it very much and I loved James Caan’s performance. But that’s all I remembered of it. I like Wahlberg, I like the stuff that he does, I like him as a person because he’s a self-made man. He’s really turned his life around, so I’m a great admirer of his and really wanted to work with him.
Frank is a brilliant creation – it must be great fun playing somebody eccentric. Does it give you a lot of freedom to be quite over the top?
I like the fact that he’s just in total command of his life. He’s rich and it makes him kind of a relaxed figure, able to control everything. I’m sure there’s a lot of danger living the type of life that he does, he has a bodyguard constantly and I’m sure that maybe one day won’t be his day and he’ll wind up with a bullet in the back of his head. But he seems to be enjoying himself a great deal, and he decides to take a risk, and gambles on this kid who he thinks a great deal of.
How was it being bald for a while? Invigorating?
It was great because they can use an airbrush to actually make me look bald. The last time I shaved my head, I did a production of Waiting for Godot in New York and I was supposed to be bald, but there’s stubble and there’s nothing I could have done, make-up or anything to stop the stubble showing through and I wish I had an airbrush to cover it, I never could look bald.
When you alter something about physical appearance, does that make getting in to character that little bit easier?
Yeah, I think so. It’s one more hook, it’s a tangible thing that helps a little bit.
Frank is unlike anything I’ve really seen you do before – how important is it for you as an actor to continue to test yourself, try new things and keep it fresh?
Well that was the main reason I took the role because I’ve never done anything like this before, to play somebody that powerful who had that much potential evil in him. He chose to do the right thing in this case, but he’s complicated. He lives an immoral life.
Now you can cross Rupert Wyatt off the list of directors you’ve collaborated with – is there anyone out there you admire and still hope that perhaps one day you’ll work alongside?
Oh man, yesterday I was thinking that very thought. Paul Thomas Anderson comes to mind, and there are so many others. So many good people. I’d hope to work with Steven Soderbergh one day, I’d love to work with George Clooney again. And Joel and Ethan any time. They’re great fun.
Have you ever given much thought to directing yourself, one day?
The older I get, the more I think about it, but if I wanted to do it, I should have done it 30 years ago. I think about it, but I’m just too lazy.
So finally, just out of sheer curiosity, is there any likelihood of re-entering the world of Sulley and Mike?
I didn’t know we were going to go back in with the second one. They said they weren’t gonna do it unless they had a really good story and they wrote a story and it seemed to work. I don’t know, but I think Pixar studios are among the most imaginative anywhere, and they’re fantastic, detailed storytellers and they are so much fun to work with.
So if another good story came about, you’d entertain the idea?
Absolutely. I couldn’t turn them down – they’re usually right.
The Gambler is released on January 23rd.